I Think I’m a Lakers Fan, and I Think it’s Because They Suck
FINE, I’ll say it. In writing. On the internet.
I am a Lakers fan.
That confession weighs on me, because I have always considered myself something of a Lakers hater. Like the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots, they’re just so easy to hate—big market, big star, tons of success … it makes a small town Reds/Bengals/Packers fan like myself hate big city teams who seem to win all the time.
And since my home city of Cincinnati never had a professional basketball team—we’re closer to Indianapolis than to Cleveland, before you go telling me I should root for the Cavs—I’ve never really followed the NBA (unless you count my obsesssive love of the 1998 Chicago Bulls, who were the team that taught me to love sports). In fact, my old boss worships the Los Angeles Lakers, and watching him gloat over wins was so annoying that I rooted against them.
But something changed. And I don’t just mean the fact that I moved to Los Angeles.
This off-season, the LA Lakers built a team built to win. And win now. Don’t worry, I’m going to get to the part where that strategy failed.
They added Steve Nash, a veteran from Phoenix eager to finally play for a team with a chance to win it all. They added Dwight Howard, a superstar from Orlando whose messy departure earned him Lebron-esque ridicule for being a diva, but which promised him an opportunity to inherit Los Angeles when one day Kobe Bryant is no longer able to reign over the Lakers.
If it sounds a little bit like what the Heat did two years ago, you’re not wrong. There are similarities. Los Angeles gobbled up superstars from smaller markets and assembled them into one super-team hoping that their various styles would combine in a championship. And it makes sense that there’d be some backlash from Orlando, Phoenix, and anywhere where people hate super-teams. As a (former) Laker-hater, I should’ve been making water cooler talk about how ridiculous the move was.
But I didn’t. Because I live in Los Angeles. And after the disappointing—nay, embarrassing—showing the Lakers put up in last season’s playoffs, the best thing a Laker-hater in LA could do was bite their tongue, get along with the co-workers who bleed gold and purple, and just hope things didn’t work out.
I had no idea they’d not-work-out so spectacularly. The Lakers sucked. (At the time of writing this, they’re 9-11. Two years ago, 20 games in, they were 15-5.)
In fact, I started writing this article when Mike Brown was still coaching the Lakers. Then they fired him. And then they didn’t even hire Phil Jackson, coaching deity. They hired Mike D’Antoni—a mustachioed old dude from the Knicks.
And they still suck. (You can say it’s because Nash, one of D’Antoni’s former players, is injured, but I say they suck.) They’ve blown double-digit leads in the 4th quarter. Kobe is losing all kinds of good will by calling out his teammates. And the CLIPPERS are now LA’s winningest basketball team.
Here are some teams the Lakers have lost to. Tell me if you can name a single player on these teams, let alone place the city/state on a map: Memphis, Sacramento, San Antonio, Utah, Indianapolis, Golden State (San Francisco), Portland, Dallas, Orlando, Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City …
It seems weird to me that I’d suddenly start to like a team just when they’re at their worst. I have a few theories on why I suddenly like the Lakers, and by looking at them, I invite sports fans everywhere to question why they love the teams they love, and whether (or when) it’s okay to open their hearts to new teams.
Theory 1: It’s all about geography. I like the Lakers now because I live and LA and they are the team most representative of this city. It’s natural for any person to start rooting for a pro team in the city in which they live. Unless you’re a New Yorker moving to Boston or vice versa.
Theory 2: It’s anti-dynasty sentiment. People hate teams that year after year continue to be amazing. No one likes the Yankees. No one likes the Patriots. No one likes … um … whoever hockey’s best dynasty is. And so when the Lakers were in their heyday, I would have loved them but I was blinded by all those wins. And now that they’re no longer a powerhouse, I can see them for what they really are—just another team to root for.
Theory 3: I am a masochist. I’m a long-suffering sports fan. I watch hundreds of hours of Reds games as they win their division, then react in horror as they drop three games in a row at home to get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. I watch the Bengals back into the post-season, only to wince as they get trounced by the Texans. I have something to talk about because sports and disappointment go hand in hand for me. So now that the Lakers are disappointing everyone, I feel like they’re the team for me.
It’s a little sick, actually, to realize how trivial my devotion to a team is. I don’t know Kobe or Pau or Dwight or Steve or anyone on the Lakers payroll. I’ve never even been inside the Staples Center. But because I live her, and because the team sucks, and because in some weird way I enjoy a team that disappoints me … I am actually considering asking for a Lakers jersey for Christmas.
I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am. I’m a sports fan. And fandom is crazy.